Politico's Roger Simon distorted President Obama's record to claim that his request for emergency funding to deal with the recent flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the border was tantamount to waking "from a deep slumber ... to fight a problem he has ignored for years." In reality, Obama has supported legislation in the past that addressed many of the underlying issues but the legislation has been blocked by the GOP.
Administration Requests Money To Address Surge Of Unaccompanied Minors
WSJ: Number Of Unaccompanied Children Crossing Has Become An "Urgent Humanitarian Situation." The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border since October 2013. Obama said the border crossings have created an "urgent humanitarian situation." [The Wall Street Journal, 7/14/14]
Wash. Post: Obama Requests $3.7 Billion In Emergency Funds. On July 8, Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency spending to address the surge of child migrants. According to The Washington Post, the bulk of that funding would go to the Departments of Health and Human Services, Justice, and Homeland Security:
Under the White House proposal, most of the emergency funds would be split between the Department of Health and Human Services -- which would receive $1.8 billion to provide shelter and care to the immigrants -- and the Justice and Homeland Security departments, which would get a combined $1.6 billion to handle enforcement.
The State Department would receive $300 million to help the Central American countries repatriate their citizens and create advertising campaigns about the dangers of placing children in the hands of smuggling cartels. [The Washington Post, 7/8/14]
Politico's Simon Claims Obama Has Ignored Immigration Crisis "For Years"
Simon: Obama Asked For Funds "As If He Had Just Awoken From A Deep Slumber." Simon claimed that the $3.7 billion in funding that Obama requested to handle the unaccompanied minors came out of nowhere and that Obama has ignored the problem "for years." Simon highlighted four ways the White House plans to use the funding: $1.8 billion would go to the Health and Human Services Department for the care of child immigrants, $1.5 billion would go to the Department of Homeland Security for border security, $300 million would go to the State Department to help stabilize the children's home countries, and $64 million would help the Justice Department streamline the deportation process. From Simon's July 15 column (emphasis added):
As if he had just awoken from a deep slumber, Obama now wants an immediate $3.7 billion from Congress to fight a problem he has ignored for years.
He wants to give $1.8 billion to the Health and Human Services Department to better care for the immigrant children in the United States. This is a good thing. Seeing pictures of little kids in detention centers wrapped in those silver blankets as if they were ballpark hotdogs was heart wrenching.
And those kids shouldn't be in detention centers at all. They should be with family members in the United States (about 15 percent of the domestic population of Honduras already lives in the United States) or foster homes, which is what the 2008 law envisioned.
Next, Obama wants to give $1.5 billion to the Department of Homeland Security to beef up border security with more overtime for agents, more aerial surveillance and more drones. This is a waste.
These children from Central America are not fleeing from our Border Patrol agents, they are fleeing to them. These children want to surrender, enter the legal process and find a home here.
Obama also wants $300 million to go to the State Department to help "stabilize" the Central American countries that the kids are fleeing -- a nice thought, but how much of that $300 million is going to end up in the pockets of politicians and other criminals?
And lastly, Obama wants $64 million for the Justice Department to hire more immigration judges so he can send the children back to Central America more quickly and hire more asylum lawyers to fight to keep the children here. [Politico, 7/15/14]
Obama-Backed Senate Immigration Bill Funded Issues Addressed By Current Proposal
Politico: Obama Backs Senate Immigration Reform Bill. In December, Obama called on the House to approve the Senate's immigration reform package, Politico reported:
Obama praised the Senate bill -- as Vice President Joe Biden did last week -- and said the House should pass it.
"There are a few differences here and there, but the truth of the matter is that the Senate bill has the main components of comprehensive immigration reform that would boost our economy, give us an opportunity to attract more investment and high-skilled workers who are doing great things in places like Silicon Valley and around the country," Obama said. "So let's go ahead and get that done."
Speaking of his goals for 2014, Obama said he hoped the House would pick up the baton from the Senate.
"We can get immigration reform done," Obama said. "We've got a concept that has bipartisan support. Let's see if we can break through the politics on this." [Politico, 12/20/13]
Emergency Funding Request Includes Money To Expand Border Surveillance and Security. The Obama administration's July 8 emergency funding request included $1.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a further $433 million for Customs and Border Protection, both of which are part of the Department of Homeland Security:
The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection - $433 million
This proposal would provide the Department of Homeland Security a total of $433 million for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Of this total:
- $364 million would pay for operational costs of responding to the significant rise in apprehensions of unaccompanied children and families, including overtime and temporary duty costs for Border Patrol agents, contract services and facility costs to care for children while in CBP custody, and medical and transportation service arrangements;
- $29 million for CBP to expand its role in Border Enforcement Security Task Force programs, increasing information-sharing and collaboration among the participating law enforcement agencies combatting transnational crime; and
- $39.4 million to increase air surveillance capabilities that would support 16,526 additional flight hours for border surveillance and 16 additional crews for unmanned aerial systems to improve detection and interdiction of illegal activity. [WhiteHouse.gov, 7/8/14]
Senate Immigration Reform Bill Would Have Dedicated $46.3 Billion To Increased Border Security Over 10 Years. According to the American Immigration Council, the Senate-passed immigration reform bill "makes enormous investments in border security" that include dramatically increasing the number of Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border, and "mandates 24-hour surveillance of the border region using mobile, video, and portable systems, as well as unmanned aircraft" -- two measures included in Obama's latest funding request. The American Immigration Council offered a breakdown of the funding:
Spending on border security will reach record levels. The bill creates a fund with $46.3 billion of initial funding to implement the Act. Additional funding will be provided by visa and other user fees, which may be increased as necessary. $30 billion will be dedicated over a 10-year period to hiring and deploying at least 19,200 additional Border Patrol agents. $8 billion will be dedicated to the Southern Border Fencing Strategy, of which $7.5 billion will be for deployment and maintenance of fencing. $750 million will be dedicated to E-Verify implementation and expansion. $4.5 billion will be spent to carry out the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy, and -- if necessary -- $2 billion will be allocated to implement the recommendations of the Southern Border Security Commission. [American Immigration Council, June 2013]
Resources For Undocumented Minors In Immigration Courts
Emergency Funding Request Would Increase Legal Assistance To Children In Immigration Proceedings. Part of the White House's emergency funding request for increased Justice Department funding would decrease the immigration court backlog by hiring new judge teams and boost legal assistance to undocumented minors in the immigration courts system:
- $45.4 million would be to hire approximately 40 additional immigration judge teams, including those anticipated to be hired on a temporary basis. This funding would also expand courtroom capacity including additional video conferencing and other equipment in support of the additional immigration judge teams. These additional resources, when combined with the FY 2015 Budget request for 35 additional teams, would provide sufficient capacity to process an additional 55,000 to 75,000 cases annually.
- $2.5 million would be used to expand the legal orientation program that provides assistance to adults and custodians of children in the immigration court system.
- $15 million to provide direct legal representation services to children in immigration proceedings.
- $1.1 million to hire additional immigration litigation attorneys to support Federal agencies involved in detainee admission, regulation, and removal actions. [WhiteHouse.gov, 7/8/14]
Senate Immigration Bill Would Give Unaccompanied Minors Right To A Lawyer. As the American Immigration Council noted, the Senate immigration reform bill would give all unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings access to a lawyer:
Under current law, immigrants in removal proceedings do not have the right to appointed counsel if they cannot afford to hire a lawyer. The bill changes this in the case of unaccompanied minor children, immigrants with serious mental disabilities, and other particularly vulnerable individuals, and requires that a lawyer be appointed to represent them. The bill requires that immigrants in proceedings have access to evidence in the government's files and adds additional immigration judges, additional court staff, and additional training programs for judges and staff. [American Immigration Council, June 2013]
AP: Immigration Reform Bill Would Decrease Court Backlog By Adding 225 Judges. The Associated Press reported that the administration-backed immigration reform bill would help decrease the backlog by adding 225 judges to the immigration courts and increasing funds for support staff:
The Senate passed immigration legislation in June that allocates more money for the immigration courts and called for 225 new judges, as well as an equal number of support staff, over the next three years. But House Speaker John Boehner has said his chamber will not take up that bill nor address a similar one introduced by House Democrats. [Associated Press, 12/22/13]
GOP Obstruction On These Issues Contributed To Problems With Immigration System
USA Today: "House GOP Kills Last Hope For Immigration Bill." In a July 10 article headlined "House GOP kills last hope for immigration bill," USA Today reported that the "last remaining hope for Congress to pass an immigration overhaul died" in the House after being stalled for months:
Diaz-Balart has been the main Republican responsible for crafting the House version of an immigration overhaul. At times, he was working with a bipartisan group of legislators to find an immigration overhaul that would be tolerable in the Republican-led House. He was repeatedly encouraged by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders to continue working on the bill.
But after meeting with House leadership on Thursday morning, he says he was told the end had come.
"I'm really, really disappointed," he said after the meeting. "We have a good bill. We have a unique opportunity to secure our borders, fix our broken immigration system, help our economy and do so in a way that adhere to the rule of law. But unfortunately I've been told we're not going to be able to pursue it. And I think that's highly unfortunate." [USA Today, 7/10/14]
Mother Jones: Bush Administration Acknowledged That Immigration Courts Were Understaffed. As Mother Jones pointed out in a July 14 article, the Bush administration was aware that the immigration court system did not have enough resources and attempted to address the problem in 2006:
As far back as 2006, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recognized that the immigration courts were woefully understaffed to process a backlog of cases that back then stood at 169,000. Gonzales called for more funding to increase resources for the courts, including adding more 40 judges. [Mother Jones, 7/14/14]
Mother Jones: Despite Bush Efforts, 1 In 6 Immigration Judgeships Were Vacant When Obama Took Office. The Mother Jones article reported that the Bush administration's efforts fell short and that the problems in immigration courts remained at the start of the Obama administration:
By the time Obama took office, immigration courts had a vacancy rate that reached 1 in 6 judgeships. The new Obama administration began hiring judges furiously, eventually adding an additional 44 new bodies to the immigration bench. Even so, his concurrent move to step up border enforcement meant that the deportation caseloads were growing even faster. [Mother Jones, 7/14/14]
Mother Jones: GOP Stonewalling On Sequestration Has Since Exacerbated The Issue. Mother Jones reported that the automatic across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration have played a role in the problem:
In 2010, the American Bar Association called on Congress and the White House to immediately initiate the hiring of at least 100 new judges to help relieve the existing crisis in the courts. Instead, Congress failed to deal with the budget of any agency, sequestration happened, and the Justice Department started a hiring freeze that didn't end until December 2013, even though at least 100 sitting immigration judges are eligible to retire this year. Meanwhile, the comprehensive immigration bill passed in the Senate last year would have added 225 new judges to the immigration courts over three years (along with clerks and support staff), but Republicans killed the bill in the House. [Mother Jones, 7/14/14]